Britain sees rise in hate crimes

People light candles at a makeshift memorial to victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, at Albert Square in Manchester, on May 23, 2017.
People light candles at a makeshift memorial to victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, at Albert Square in Manchester, on May 23, 2017. PHOTO: NYTIMES

LONDON • The referendum on British membership in the European Union and several terrorist attacks, including a suicide bombing after a concert in Manchester, have helped drive hate crimes in Britain to record levels, according to official figures.

The Home Office said on Tuesday that 80,393 hate crimes were reported during the 12 months to March this year, an increase of nearly 30 per cent and the largest year-to-year rise in the five years that data has been collected.

The increase was "larger than anticipated", said hate crimes expert Paul Iganski, a criminology professor at Lancaster University.

The "Brexit" campaign last year was supported by some right-wing and nationalist groups, and the vote gave rise to concerns that minorities and immigrants would be more vulnerable to hate crimes.

In addition, provisional data collected around the time of terrorist attacks this year in London and Manchester, where the bombing outside the Ariana Grande concert in May left 22 dead, found that hate crimes soon followed the attacks.

But the rise can be attributed in part to increased public awareness and changes in the law, which broadened the definition of hate crimes to the point that almost any verbal or physical assault can be categorised as one if the victim interprets it as such.

The authorities have also improved their capacity to record and document attacks, and victims are widely believed to feel more comfortable going to the police.

Nearly 80 per cent of such crimes were based on race, according to the report. About 10 per cent were based on sexual orientation and 7 per cent on religion.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'Britain sees rise in hate crimes'. Print Edition | Subscribe